“In Love with the World”: Study Abroad in France

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Shea Pitre ’15 at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Before I began my study abroad at L’Université Catholique de Lille, I had never been out of the country and had rarely ventured out of the southern U.S. I’m an International Studies and French double major, so studying in France was a necessity, but the decision to do it for a year was both insanely easy and incredibly frightening. I was worried about all the usual things students worry about before they begin their study abroad. Would I like it? How was I going to handle being so far away from home for so long? Did I know enough French to actually live in France?

Not long after my arrival in France, all of my worries were put to rest. The first few months were not without their fair share of struggles and homesickness, but I quickly fell in love with my surroundings. Being constantly surrounded by the French language and culture was, and still is, absolutely thrilling. I am constantly learning new things in and out of the classroom, not only about the world around me but also about myself.

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London!

In the classroom, I have been able to attain a higher level of French. I have also been able to gain a different perspective on international relations and what is going on in the world. Most of my classes this year have focused on international political ties and foreign policy from a French and broader European view, and it has truly enriched what I already knew and loved about my International Studies major.

My time abroad so far has been a truly transformative experience. Thanks to Europe’s connectedness, I’ve now been to 24 cities in 13 different countries, and I have learned so much in each place from experiencing it, rather than reading it out of a textbook. Besides finally realizing my childhood dream of going to Paris (which was amazing), one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had during my exchange was visiting the Palace of Nations and the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was so wonderful to learn its history and be in a place where so many important decisions have been made on the international front.

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Lille, France

Thanks to all of these amazing experiences that I have had and the fact that I have been submersed in a completely different culture for seven months, I am more confident and inspired, and I have fallen in love with the world. However, as amazing as this experience has been, I am ready to return home to see where everything I have learned leads me in life and in the rest of my time at Oglethorpe. I urge every Oglethorpe student to talk to Dr. Collins and take advantage of one of the many amazing study abroad opportunities our school has to offer. You won’t regret it.

Study Abroad Awesomeness

Autumn Wright 4I’ve heard plenty of excuses why students don’t want to study abroad. They don’t want to miss out on a semester. They’re afraid they’ll get behind. Perhaps there’s an internship they want to do, or a concert they want to go see. Maybe they think that it’s too difficult to put all their friends and family behind them and run away for a year.

Let’s get this straight: study abroad is not always the glamorous life depicted on the glossy brochures in front of Dr. Collins‘ office, where a politically-correct diverse range of students stand in front of An Important, Easily-Recognizable Monument and flash their Photoshopped-white teeth at the camera on a perfect spring day.

But sometimes it is.

Autumn Wright 3The Road to Cultivation 128There are moments that feel perfect, those once-in-a-lifetime sparks that imprint themselves on your mind. Standing on a bridge over the Seine on New Year’s Eve at midnight while the Eiffel Tower lights up and fireworks flash over the Parisian skyline. Climbing to the top of some ridiculously tall, ridiculously old cathedral so you can catch a glimpse of the city from above. Lying on the grass with new found friends from all corners of the globe, the taste of the pastry you bought at the nearest boulangerie still on your tongue. And, feeling like the world’s biggest bad ass for navigating London’s winding roads and underground on two hours of sleep.

Autumn Wright 2Study abroad will lead you to places that you never pictured yourself going. For example, even though I’m studying in France at the moment, I’ll be going to England in a fortnight with my job. I have an internship this summer through my school here in France that spans across three different countries, taking me all the way from Amsterdam to Paris. (Which seriously rocks. If I’d stayed in Atlanta, I would probably have some cookie cutter internship that would have involved making copies and using my honed barista skills to brew pots of coffee.)

Autumn WrightSeriously. Study abroad is one of the best experiences of my life. College is one of the only times where you can take a semester or two “off” and just go somewhere and it’s perfectly acceptable. If you try doing the same with your boss in a couple years’ time, I doubt they’d be too thrilled to let you go adventuring across Europe. Study abroad now, or else regret it later.

Autumn Wright, an Oglethorpe University junior majoring in French, is studying abroad and interning in Lille, France.

OU Student, Aspiring Ambassador Invited to Speak to Atlanta International Students

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Anwaar Abu Shugair ’16

Every year the Atlanta Ministry for International Students hosts a welcome reception for international students who are studying in Atlanta. This fall’s 36th annual reception was held at Spelman College and Oglethorpe’s own Anwaar Abu Shugair ’16, a native of Jordan, was invited to address the hundreds of students who are making Atlanta universities their temporary homes this year.

The reception is open to all international students in Atlanta, making it a massive gathering of cultures where everyone can mingle, eat international foods, enjoy a performance by the Atlanta Opera, and meet “amigo families”—American families who open their homes to international students during the holidays. Anwaar was a part of the delegation welcoming the students to the U.S. and Atlanta.

amisEstablished in 1978 by local churches and the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, AMIS was created to encourage connections between Atlanta natives and international students to make their stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. Anwaar, who was a part of the program as a new international student last year, says that it had helped her to integrate into the American culture, which is drastically different from her own, she says. Anwaar especially enjoyed “getting to eat the turkey and pies on Thanksgiving” surrounded by new friends. As a result, she found it easy to feel comfortable in America and she quickly settled in and made a home of Atlanta and Oglethorpe.

Anwaar knew Oglethorpe would be the right place for her ever since she first started reviewing her options for universities with her school advisor in Jordan. Her high school, King’s Academy, promoted mastery of both English and Arabic, global citizenship, and boasts a world class liberal arts curriculum. This perfectly prepared her for an institution like Oglethorpe, which is rich in cultural life and the liberal arts. The size and the ratio of students to faculty here ensured her that she would not feel overwhelmed by being suddenly surrounded by thousands of students in a new country, and the curriculum was perfect for her career aspirations.

Anwaar is double majoring in Politics and Economics, and hopes to earn a master’s degree in the U.S. before returning to Jordan to possibly complete a PhD program there. One day she would like to be a diplomat, perhaps even the Jordanian ambassador to the U.S. She is already accumulating ambassadorial experience here at Oglethorpe through working in the Office of Admission and in the Academic Success Center as a tutor.

OU Museum of Art: “An Academic Treasure Trove”

I have always loved Japanese art. So, when I learned that my Asian Politics class was attending the OU Museum of Art’s Japanese art exhibition as part of learning about Japanese history and culture—I freaked. Two things I love had come together: learning and art.

Yoshida's woodcut "Sending Boats" series especially stood out to Jacob Tadych '14 in Dr. Steen's Japanese Literature class. WHY?

Yoshida’s woodcut “Sending Boats” series especially stood out to me. The series of images depicts the life of traditional Japanese fishermen from the same perspective during different times of day.

Both my class, taught by Dr. Stephen Herschler, and Dr. Robert Steen’s Japanese  Literature class took full advantage of having the exhibition right here on our campus at the beginning of this semester. Jiki to Hanga: Japanese Porcelain and Prints helped our classes see art as a reflection of a culture and current events, and to explore how art is a means through which cultures can exchange ideas with one another.

“Learning is more effective when it is attached to the real world and becomes not just theoretical but experiential as well,” said Dr. Herschler. “It was an incredible opportunity…(and) a truly fabulous way for the Asian Politics class to start the semester, using art to learn about not just different cultures but also philosophy, international commerce, and politics as reflected in the techniques, materials, and aesthetics of specific artistic works.”

Porcelain detail: Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Porcelain detail: Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Some of the porcelain pieces on view, for example, showed how Western culture influenced Eastern culture. Traditional Japanese art forms are stoic and minimalistic, but that contrasted with the vibrant pieces created by the Japanese for Westerners to display in their Victorian era households.

The displayed works by master printmaker Hiroshi Yoshida gave students a snapshot of Japanese culture in transition from a feudalistic society to the current industrial power. His use of traditional Japanese woodcuts and the European oil and watercolor painting techniques shows the balancing act that resulted from the mash of cultural ideals following WWII. Yoshida’s works are traditional in their minimalism, but also very impactful in that the cultural transition is gently introduced to the viewer. Most prints in the exhibit showed very traditional scenes, like Mount Fuji and shrines or fishermen on sailboats throughout the day, while others showed the shops at night seeming to suggest the beginning of using electric lights by the intensity of the shadows and the use of Western techniques.

Dr. Steen’s class was studying post WWII Japanese literature, coinciding with the time period of the Yoshida prints. His class used the exhibit as context for discussing the cultural transitions in Japan at that time and the effects on the country’s literature. “Art tells stories and I have my students write about those stories,” said Dr. Steen, who uses the themes of memory, cultural identity and travel to relate the texts back to differences in perspective. “There are many ways to make connections to the ideas that we talk about in class, even if they aren’t directly related.”

Elizabeth Peterson, the director of the OU Museum of Art, is thrilled that the classes were able to use the exhibit to compliment their classroom curriculum. “This is precisely why universities have museums—as more than a lovely place to visit—it’s an academic treasure trove for students.”

Dr. Herschler's Asian Politics Class with Dr. Terry Taylor.

Dr. Herschler’s Asian Politics class pictured with Dr. Terry Taylor, who loaned the Yoshida woodcuts to OUMA for the exhibition. Dr. Taylor gave a lecture to the class about the dedication required by Yoshida to create the woodcuts—all of which came from a selected single piece of wood.